Most adults have four wisdom teeth, two in the upper and lower jaw respectively. Wisdom teeth, also known as third molars, are the last teeth to erupt in your mouth. This generally occurs between the ages of 17 and 25.
Unfortunately, over 80% of wisdom teeth are impacted and need to be removed.
The wisdom teeth are the last to erupt and are right at the back of the oral cavity. Sometimes the wisdom tooth does not erupt in the correct position due to a lack of space. The tooth becomes impacted and its’ growth and eruption are prevented by overlying gum, bone or adjacent tooth (second molar). A wisdom tooth may be partially impacted, which means a portion of it has broken through the gum, or totally impacted and unable to break through the gum at all.
Impacted and partially impacted wisdom teeth can be painful and lead to infection. They may also cause crowding or damage adjacent teeth or roots. Commonly, braces are used to straighten teeth and produce a fuller dental arch. This results in not enough space for the wisdom teeth to erupt, thereby creating a myriad of potential problems.
When this occurs, wisdom teeth can be removed under a Local or General anaesthetic. The choice depends on the severity of the impaction, the number of teeth requiring removal and of course the patient’s preference and financial status. Dr Webber is happy to discuss all of the above at the time of consultation to ensure the most appropriate and comfortable plan is arranged.
Not all impacted wisdom teeth will cause pain. If you do feel pain, it is because the errant tooth is upsetting the balance of your normal teeth and gum development, leading to infections and other ailments. These in turn will manifest in pain – and it can be anything from mild to excruciating.
However, severity of pain is not the barometer for assessing whether it is related to your wisdom tooth. It is therefore important to visit our Serenity International for regular check-ups, especially if you experience any of these symptoms:
- Pain in the jawbone
- Redness or swelling of the gums around the tooth
- Bad breath
- Stiffness of the jaw or difficult opening the mouth
- Swollen lymph nodes under the jaw area
- Infection, cyst
Depending on the severity of the impacted wisdom tooth and the number of wisdom teeth to be removed, extraction can be conducted under local anesthetic in the dentist chair or general anesthetic in hospital. In some cases, wisdom teeth are no different to extractions of any other teeth.
You should discuss these options with your dental practitioner who will be able to provide you with any further information needed to reassure you for the procedure.
During the procedure, the wisdom tooth socket will be widened using a straight instrument and pair of forceps. The tooth is loosened by being moved from side-to-side until loose enough to be removed entirely.
In circumstances where the tooth is deeply impacted, the dentist makes an incision in the gums or may remove some bone around the affected area, as well. Once the tooth has been removed, the incision is closed with stitches, which may dissolve after ten days. The entire procedure takes between 45 minutes to an hour and a half.
Wisdom tooth removal surgery is prone to risks and side effects as many operations of this nature are. While it is fairly uncommon experience side effects, you are encouraged to contact your dentist immediately, should you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Constant bleeding
- Severe pain (that doesn’t subside with pain medication)
- Trouble with breathing or swallowing
- A temperature or fever
- Ongoing swelling after a few days
- Ongoing numbness a few days
- A general unwell feeling
- Dry socket
Dry socket is one of the most common complications to result from wisdom tooth removal surgery and will cause severe pain and prolong healing in the affected area.
A dry socket can occur when the blood clot that sits over the tooth socket or hole, breaks away. With the blood clot removed, the wound, bone and nerves are exposed to air, fluid and food.
Symptoms of dry socket include severe throbbing pain, bad breath and an unpleasant taste in the mouth. Additionally, the tooth socket where the wisdom tooth was removed may appear to look dry with visible white bone, instead of a dark-coloured blood clot.
Patients are encouraged to contact their dentist immediately if these symptoms occur. The dentist will carry out an examination to diagnose dry socket.
If diagnosed with dry socket, the dentist will wash the socket to clear it of any debris and place an analgesic dressing to cover and protect it.
You may additionally be advised to take anti-inflammatory and pain medication. It is important to be mindful that hormonal changes and birth control medication in women can increase the risk of dry socket.
Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.